Yavapai's Robert Brutinel on short list to be next Arizona Supreme Court justice

Robert Brutinel

Robert Brutinel

PHOENIX -- Eight judges have survived the first cut in the bid to be the next justice of the Arizona Supreme Court.

Members of the Commission on Appellate Court appointments decided Wednesday they did not want to interview nine of the 17 people who applied for the high court. While panel members did not provide any reasons, they did eliminate anyone without judicial experience.

Of those eight who will be interviewed later this month, the commission will nominate three for consideration by Gov. Jan Brewer. The Arizona Constitution requires her to choose from that list.

One of the eight is virtually guaranteed to be on the list that goes to Brewer: Diane Johnsen, a judge from Division 1 of the Arizona Court of Appeals.

She is the only Democrat on the list of those that remain. And the commission's list to the governor must include people from more than one party.

That means the remaining seven, all Republicans, will vie for the remaining two spots.

Those left include:

• Robert M. Brutinel, a Yavapai County Superior Court judge;

• Norman J. Davis, a Maricopa County Superior Court judge;

• Philip G. Espinosa, a judge on the Court of Appeals Division 2 (Tucson);

• John C. Gemmill, an appellate court judge from Division 1

• Wallace R. Hoggatt, a judge of Cochise County Superior Courts;

• A. John Pelander III, Division 2 Court of Appeals;

• Ann A. Scott Timmer, a judge on Division 1 of the Court of Appeals;

Whoever Brewer chooses from that list would replace Ruth McGregor who is stepping down at the end of June. While McGregor is currently the chief justice, the new judge would not assume that title: Unlike the U.S. Supreme Court, the five justices decide among themselves who is the chief.

The current system for filling vacancies on the Arizona Supreme Court has been in place since approved by voters in 1974.

Since that time, only once has a governor chosen someone not from his or her own party to fill vacancies on the top court: Republican Gov. Jane Hull who in 1998 picked McGregor, a Democrat. Hull said that McGregor's record as a judge on the state Court of Appeals showed she had the judicial temperament the governor wanted.

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